A nice chat with Naz Osmanoglu
Andrew Mickel2 February 2010
There are people who are born to be funny.
Naz Osmanoglu, half-English/half-Turkish/fully obsessed by TV action man Bear Grylls, is one of those people.
Of his seven minute routine which won him last year’s Amused Moose Best Newcomer, about half was dedicated to Bristol’s favourite survival headcase Grylls, and every second was brilliant.
The act, equally angry and joyful, marked the arrival of the wonderfully named Osmanoglu to the higher echelons of British stand-up, and, mark these clichéd words, the only way is up.
He and his comedy troupe, WitTank, formed during his time at Durham University, are Edinburgh Fringe veterans and are currently preparing a new routine for this year’s event. Such Small Portions caught up with Naz in London in between rehearsals for his latest performance, for a chat about, well, Bear Grylls, the comic psyche and growing up with a shouty Turkish dad.
Such Small Portions: How are you, Naz, and what have you been up to recently?
Naz: Very well, thanks. Gigging, working and more gigging really. Went to Kent this weekend, that was nice. Have you been to Rye, it’s really quite beautiful? Then I went to Coventry. (Eds note: Coventry is not so nice, sorry all from Coventry in advance.)
Such Small Portions: So, what is the masterplan for 2010?
Naz: Apart from really trying to establish myself on the circuit, my sketch group and I have actually organised a couple of residencies to keep trying out new material and getting ready for the Edinburgh Festival. We’re putting on a free stand-up night every other Monday at The Miller in London Bridge and then a cheap sketch night every other Tuesday at The ETC Theatre in Camden. Hopefully that should keep me busy. After that, world domination. Also, I want to do ‘exercise’.
Such Small Portions: You were the Amused Moose Laugh-Off Best Newcomer last year. What was that like?
Naz: Amused Moose was great fun and it was a wonderful feeling to win it. I think competitions are important for comedians just starting out as it forces them to focus on a killer five to seven minutes of material which they can then build on. Also, the open mic circuit can be difficult and under-populated and just having a big crowd of people to play to at the start is really exciting.
Such Small Portions: Are awards important to a comedian's ego? Jon Richardson once told me that kind of validation shouldn't be important but it is when you’re living the lifestyle.
Naz: Well, as for the ego - I think that initial validation is important. It gives you the confidence to further drive your ambition towards the next validation. It probably shouldn’t be as important as it is, ceaselessly seeking approval, but try bombing in Northampton for twenty minutes and then you’ll understand.
Such Small Portions: What was it like growing up in an Anglo-Turkish house? It seems to have given you a lot of material; should we expect more of the same?
Naz: It was mental. My parents are a great source for material and there’s plenty more to come. My dad is brilliant - very rarely do I have to elaborate on anything he says... or shouts. He’ll shout at cars, dogs, bins. It writes itself. Both are incredibly supportive as well, which I am lovingly thankful for. But they are also mental.
Such Small Portions: Who are your comedy influences and where do you get your inspiration from?
Naz: Narrative comedy in general is something I love to watch and re-watch. At the moment it’s Peep Show that takes up all my free time. In terms of live comics, I love watching the likes of Rhod Gilbert or Al Murray as their command of the stage is in itself inspirational. And I don’t care what anyone says, I have always loved Michael McIntyre since I saw him at the (Edinburgh) Fringe in 2006.
I’m influenced by countless comics and sketch heroes that I’ve watched since I was a child. But mostly my inspiration comes when I’m on the toilet, in the shower or talking to myself in the mirror.
Such Small Portions: Tell us about WitTank. Do you prefer solo or group performance?
Naz: They are very different and I love them both. It’s great to have company on stage and the shared experience of a good gig is really something. But then again, it’s quite nice when lots of people shout and clap for you performing by yourself.
I enjoy doing both, as it gives you the opportunity to develop material for a different medium and also to be part of something – a troupe or a gang or whatever all going somewhere, together. Instead of alone, on a bus, going to Coventry. (Ed’s note: See, it’s not just me.)
Such Small Portions: There are a whole bunch of young comedy performance troupes who are popular at the moment. Why has the trend developed in recent years?
Naz: I think university revues have always been plentiful and the Edinburgh Festival has always bubbled over with them; good and bad, bad and awful. Recently I think that sketch comedy has had some good mainstream attention with Pappy’s, We Are Klang, Idiots of Ants – and people are warming up to it.
Sketch comedy is no longer seen just as a self-indulgent university-student-dick-jokes-and-a-sing-song sort of thing – if that is a thing – and now, finally, the well thought out dick jokes and cleverly written sing-songs are getting the attention they deserve.
Such Small Portions: Your routine on Bear Grylls has gone over really well with audiences. What would you say to him if you met on a TV set?
Naz: I actually met someone who worked for him in the scouts. I have their card so it is possible that I could somehow make contact with him. That sounds a bit weird... but then again every night I stand in front of a crowd of strangers and shout his name several times so I do feel like there is a connection between us. One day I’m sure we’ll bump into each other and if he doesn’t eat me for taking the piss out of him every day of my professional career, then I shall thank him sincerely for inspiring me. And maybe then go in for a hug or perhaps just a high-five. I’m not sure Bear Grylls does hugs.
Such Small Portions: Were you upset to find out he fakes some of his stunts?
Naz: I don’t mind – his name is BEAR GRYLLS, he can literally do anything!
Such Small Portions: Are you planning on doing a comedy DVD or TV shows any time soon? Are you in that sort of talks?
Well, there’s no DVD just yet... but I’m looking forward to a BBC3 pilot that I’m in called Laughter Shock . It’s a mixture of stand-up and sketch comedy and there are some really great acts in it. So hopefully that won’t be shit. Otherwise, all my attention goes to Edinburgh 2010.
Such Small Portions: Tell us something about something – yourself, someone or thing else – that we wouldn't already know.
Naz: I have seven Shih Tzus and they piss everywhere.
Such Small Portions: Mental. What annoys you?
Naz: Piss that is everywhere. Also... bills, people who don’t have ‘credit’, cold showers on account of a broken boiler that our landlord should really be dealing with, ‘sharing’ in general, morning people and the guilt I feel when I take taxis. Famine’s pretty vexing.
Such Small Portions: Naz, how many letters are there in your full name?
Naz: HIH Prince Nazim Ziaeddin Nazim Osmanoglu. So lots. (Eds note: Thirty-six, including the title.)
Such Small Portions: Anything else you want put out there while we’ve got you?
Naz: If you do see Bear Grylls, say hello from me. Or just roar – he’ll understand.
Your rating: None
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